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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy: Christmas began thanks to Mary's childlike faith
Larry Sheehy mug
Larry Sheehy - photo by Special

    “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (Mark 10:15).
    A primary event in the Biblical story about the birth of Jesus involves the appearance of the angel Gabriel to a young virgin named Mary to reveal her place in the imminent conception and birth of Jesus, the Son of God (See Luke 1:26-38).
    In a children's Bible class, students were asked to draw a picture demonstrating Mary’s trust in God in this experience. In one child’s drawing, the angel, depicted as a radiating, golden sphere, asks Mary, "Will you have God’s baby?" The virgin’s response to this mind-numbing question is simply, "Sure." No fanfare; just a simple promise.
    You have to smile at this amazing example of composure! And yet, that's just about the way Scripture presents Mary's reaction to the angel's news. This student/artist may not only have captured the essence of Mary's reliance on the Lord, but revealed his/her own as well.
    Of course, in Luke’s divinely inspired record of the event, Mary’s response was filled with wonder and expressed in a beautiful, non-compromising statement of trust and acceptance. Though she first expressed her lack of comprehension of the angel’s promise of conception — since, after all, she was a virgin — she didn’t do as some have done and argue the point. No, her faith led her to willingly accept the will of her sovereign Lord: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
    Mary, perhaps just past her own childhood at this point (some have suggested she was no older than 15 or even younger), displayed to Bible readers an uncommon reaction to a stunning view of her future. Commenting about Mark's gospel account of Jesus’ insistence on a child-like reception of the kingdom of God, A. E. J. Rawlinson suggested: "The point of comparison is not so much the innocence and humility children (for children are not invariably either innocent or humble): it is rather the fact that children are unselfconscious, receptive, and content to be dependent on others' care and bounty; it is in such a spirit that the kingdom must be “received” (The Gospel According to Mark. Quoted by Walter Wessel in "Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 8, p. 713).
    While I believe that "innocence and humility” are characteristics included in Jesus’ thinking about children, Rawlinson's main point is valid. A "dependent receptivity" of God's will seems to be the key here to entrance into the kingdom of God. Children generally seem to cope better emotionally with the circumstances of life. One reason may be their knowledge and trusting acceptance of the fact that they do depend on others for their well-being.
    As in Mary's case, Jesus wants us to exhibit a spirit of willing submission to the leading of God. No matter what comes our way, we should accept the fact that God is God — present everywhere, all-knowing, all-powerful — and that he works continually for the good of “those who are called according to his purpose."

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